The way in which Syracuse’s first trip to Cameron Indoor Stadium will stick with Syracuse fans for quite some time, with a charge called on C.J. Fair resulting in an apoplectic Jim Boeheim getting ejected from the game. And that’s fine. But if people are going to talk about what cost the Orange on Saturday night, that disputed call shouldn’t be the focus of their angst.
What should be the focus is how much the starting backcourt of Tyler Ennis and Trevor Cooney struggled offensively, with that making the difference between a close win and the close 66-60 defeat the Orange ended up suffering.
Ennis and Cooney combined to score 13 points on 3-for-18 shooting from the field, with the freshman point guard making just two of his 13 shot attempts. With Syracuse’s lack of depth, as they played just seven players against Duke, they can ill afford such nights from two players expected to provide contributions on the perimeter. In regards to Ennis, Duke did a good job of defending him especially in ball screen situations.
In many of those spots the Blue Devils blitzed Ennis, looking to both limit his vision and keep him from turning the corner and the move was successful for much of the evening. Ennis dished out six assists and turned the ball over just twice, but he wasn’t as effective as he’s been for much of the season.
Yet from a scoring standpoint Cooney may be the bigger concern for Syracuse moving forward, as he’s been relatively quiet since going off for 33 points in a win over Notre Dame on February 3.
Against the Fighting Irish the sophomore made 11 of his 15 attempts from the field. Since then Cooney’s shooting just 31.7% from the field (13-for-41) and 30% (9-for-30) from beyond the arc. Both of those numbers are well below his percentages for the season to date (43.8% FG, 41.4% 3PT), and this is something that needs to change if the Orange are to win the ACC regular season title.
Jerami Grant (17 points, eight rebounds) and C.J. Fair (12 and seven) combined to score 29 points and Mike Gbinije added eight points off the bench, resulting in Syracuse still have a chance to win in the game’s final minute. But they couldn’t get over the hump, and while the popular thing to do may be to blame the charge call the shooting of starting their guards didn’t help matters either.